1,119 OFWs from Soccsksargen have gone home

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 June) – Some 1,119 returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Region 12 or Soccsksargen who were stranded in Metro Manila and Cebu have already returned home as of Tuesday under the government’s Hatid Probinsya program.

Region 12 or Soccsksargen. Map courtesy of Google

Marilou Sumalinog, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)-Region 12 director, said the stranded workers arrived through “sweeper” flights and passenger vessels commissioned since May 25 by the national government.

She said 854 of them were flown home through the city international airport by special flights from Manila, mostly of Air Asia.

The 265 others traveled through 2GO passenger vessel via Cagayan de Oro City and “sweeper” flights via Davao City.

After the two special flights last May 25, Sumalinog said there was at least one commercial aircraft carrying “not less than 100” returning OFWs that landed daily at the airport here.

“We’re expecting the same number [of arrivals] in the days to come as there were many OFWs stranded in Manila who were already at the airport,” she said in a radio interview.

Of the initial 24,000 stranded OFWs in the entire country who were enlisted for the special flights, around 3,000 were from Soccsksargen’s four provinces and five cities, she said.

But Sumalinog said such list does not include OFWs who stayed with their relatives in Metro Manila during the community quarantine and those who have just arrived from abroad, with the list changing on a daily basis.

She said Philippine Coast Guard and OWWA personnel handling the movements in Manila were making sure that the returning workers have been cleared of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR tests.

She said the travel of those with still pending results was put on hold until they were properly cleared.

Upon arrival here, the OFWs underwent profiling and health screening before they were turned over to their respective local government units (LGUs), Sumalinog said.

The processing of the workers was assisted by personnel from the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Based on protocol, she said all returning OFWs were required to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine in isolation facilities designated by the LGUs.

After completing the quarantine, the official said qualified workers may apply for financial and livelihood assistance under the DOLE-Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong assistance program.

Under the program, land and sea-based OFWs whose employments were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may avail of a one-time financial assistance of P10,000 each.

Sumalinog said the agency processed and approved a total of 2,400 beneficiaries or total releases of P24 million under the first wave.

She added that more than 5,000 additional beneficiaries were in the pipeline for the program’s extension and they already processed around 3,800 applications. (MindaNews)